Shooting Gallery Entertainment

What is Shooting Gallery Entertainment?
Shooting Gallery Entertainment is a film, TV, music development/production/distribution company.

Who is Shooting Gallery Entertainment?
Shooting Gallery Entertainment management includes: Larry Meistrich (Chairman/CEO); Stephen Carlis (President); Eamonn Bowles (President, Shooting Gallery Films); Josh Kane (President, Shooting Gallery Television); and Phil Carson (President, Shooting Gallery Music).

Total number of employees:
More than 100.

How, when, and why did Shooting Gallery Entertainment come into being?
Shooting Gallery Entertainment was started for the simple purpose of providing production opportunities, so filmmakers and other artists could tell their stories. Since 1990 we have transformed to all media including film, TV, and music in terms of development and production. We’ve produced roughly 100 projects for film, TV, and commercial/music video. [For a story on the acquisition of Gun for Hire and other service operations of The Shooting Gallery, see p. 11.]

Unofficial motto or driving philosophy:
To inspire artistic expression and act as a creative developer, producer, and distributor.

When did you start distributing films other than the ones you produced?
We have only been distributing since 1998 and our third release, I Went Down, was our first acquisition.

What types of works do you distribute?
Well, as much as possible, we try to distribute films that have a point of view that can connect with an audience. We’re not too interested in generic stuff.

What drives you to distribute the films you do?
While everything is ultimately a business decision, whether the film appeals to us personally is the driving force. So much effort and commitment are needed to get many of these films off the ground that we have to be inspired by what we’re promoting in order to do it the best way we can. This is a tough business and there are easier ways to make money, but the rewards for success with a film we really care about are pretty incomparable.

Is Shooting Gallery Entertainment also involved in co-production or co-financing of works?
We produce and acquire pictures. We also co-produce productions such as the award-winning You Can Count on Me, which we produced with Hart Sharp Entertainment, and the upcoming Love Comes to the Executioner with Sandra Bullock’s Fortis Films. We are co-producing a Sun Records documentary with Middle Fork Productions and WNET/New York’s American Masters series.

Where do Shooting Gallery titles generally show?
At the top markets that reach the target audiences.

In 1999 you began distributing a package of films twice a year. Can you describe how this works?
The package of films you’re referring to is the Shooting Gallery Film Series. What we do basically is acquire high quality films that for whatever reasons have not gotten satisfactory deals for theatrical distribution. We then give the films a two week nationwide theatrical run in 16 cities at Loews Cineplex Theatres. The big plus we have is that we’ve secured corporate sponsorship to pay for the advertising costs of these two-week runs. This allows us to take a chance on great films and be able to support them with a substantial ad campaign, which is vital in today’s incredibly crowded marketplace. We release 12 films a year in this program—six in the spring series and six in the fall. We also have output deals with Blockbuster video and Starz/Encore cable for these films. The exciting thing about this whole program is that we get to release a lot of films that would never have had the chance to get theatrical distribution, and some of them have been among the best reviewed films of the year, and, in the case of Croupier, one of the big commercial specialized hits of the year.

What happens if one of those films is especially popular with audiences? Is it ‘held over’?
If the film is well received in the two-week run, it can be held over, expanded, and opened in other cities. This has happened to some extent with every film we’ve released in the series. If the film works, we have the ability to expand it as much as the market will bear.

Films and filmmakers you’ve distributed through this series:
Bob Gosse’s upcoming Julie Johnson, starring Lili Taylor and Courtney Love; Frank Novak’s Better Housekeeping; Bahman Ghobadi’s A Time for Drunken Horses (Camera d’Or, Cannes International Film Festival 2001); Kenneth Lonergan’s You Can Count on Me (Grand Jury Prize & Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award, 2001 Sundance Film Festival); Mike Hodges’ Croupier; Eric Mendelsohn’s Judy Berlin; Billy Bob Thornton’s Sling Blade; and Bruce Sinofsky’s Sun Records documentary, which currently is in production for both television and theatrical releases.

Where do you find your titles and how should filmmakers approach you for consideration?
We mostly find them at major film festivals, but basically wherever films are screened, we’ll check them out. Also, from a steady diet of tapes that we solicit. Because we’re covering the world’s output of cinema with a very limited, yet devoted staff, it’s very hard to process the unsolicited submissions, unless they arrive with recommendations or tangible selling elements. It’s simply a question of hours in the day.

Range of production budgets of titles in your collection:
The amount it costs to create art is irrelevant.

Biggest change at Shooting Gallery Entertainment in recent years:
Philosophically, there has been no change. Changes revolve around growing and now reaching markets with specialized releases through our film series with Loews Cineplex Entertainment.

The most important issue facing Shooting Gallery Entertainment today is . . .
maintaining artistic integrity and high quality in an ever-competitive marketplace.

Where will Shooting Gallery Entertainment be 10 years from now?
According to our lease: 609 Greenwich Street.

What’s your basic approach to releasing a title?
Securing a core constituency for the film and building from there. The hardest thing to do is get a film off the ground.

Best distribution experience you’ve had lately:
Sometimes we put a film out and we can’t keep the public away. But often our best efforts are on things that don’t work, so it’s doubly rewarding when something catches on. That’s what happened with Croupier last summer, and it kind of reassured me that there still is a substantial audience for complex, challenging, unsentimental films that don’t have big stars or marketing budgets that could feed the world’s poor.

If you weren’t distributing films, what would you be doing?
Considering I’ve dedicated my entire professional life to creating Shooting Gallery, I’ve never thought about doing something else.

What would people be most surprised to learn about your company or its founders?
That inside our macho exteriors is a little girl yearning to be free (not really). That our executives are all accomplished ballroom dancers.

Other distributors that you admire and why:
Strand Releasing and Sony Pictures Classics have remained very focused on creative and fit it into successful business models.

The best film you’ve seen lately was . . .
A Time for Drunken Horses—it’s truly an amazing film.

What’s the difference between Shooting Gallery and other distributors of independent films?
The one thing I really like about this place is that we’re open minded and receptive to ideas that make sense. There is no calcified path to follow—just what’s right for each individual film. I think we’ve got a good track record (and our Film Series is emblematic of this) of coming up with smart ways around the hurdles.

If you could only give independent filmmakers one bit of advice it would be to . . .
do your homework. This industry is not a charity. It’s the business of being in the arts.

Upcoming titles to watch for:
Julie Johnson, directed by Bob Gosse, written by Wendy Hammond and Bob Gosse, starring Lili Taylor and Courtney Love. Better Housekeeping, written and directed by Frank Novak. As part of the Spring 2001 season of the Film Series, we have The Day I Became A Woman, Eureka, The Burning Man, The Last Resort and When Brendan Met Trudy.

The future of independent film distribution in this country is one that . . .
is bleak in the short term because of the cost of releasing films, but is bright further down because as broadband develops it will change everything in niche and specialized marketplaces.

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About :

Lissa Gibbs was a contributing editor to The Independent and former Film Arts Foundation Fest director.